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Teacher Advice?

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Use the new teacher's ideas to broaden your own horizons. Let it inform your melody-based compositions.


It's one thing to have music "based on pitch," but quite another to write tonally-based music. Is your teacher trying to steer you away from the latter? Break you out of your comfort zone? Or do you focus more on pitch than timbre? Try something new and see where it leads (especially in relation to rhythm, time, and phrasing), but if your teacher asks you to permanently discard melody as a guiding force then it's time to study with someone else.

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Either you have not given us enough information or the teacher hasn't. Here is a dirty secret about composition teachers - a good deal cannot offer in depth criticism due to lack of time or a false assumption they can figure out students pieces with a few glances ALL the time. Note I emphasize ALL. Good composition teachers usually can spot a trend pretty easily and quickly in student works but watch what happens when they are in a concert of their peers - rather impossible for them to arrive at well-thought out reasonable critiques upon first hearing without a score. And even with students it takes time. I recall a student of Roger Sessions who during the first lesson was entirely silent. The next lesson about halfway through he said to the student I finally am getting what you are doing in this piece. After I read that I was so sorry to never had the chance to study with Sessions when he was alive.

As for my own composition teacher, what is interesting is as I get more assured with my writing the less he has to say. it becomes a case of practicality - I chose a clumsy approach to achieve a sound and the teacher can spot it and tries to have me simplify.

So ask him - you can be honest and say you are now a bit uncertain about your entire compositional apporoach and you need specifics - is the teacher is trying to nudge you in new directions or experiment with different parameters. If he said more, take notes and let us know. We may be able to offer clarification.

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